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Road Trips Are Never What We Expect

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

— Marcel Proust

Guest Author: Pat Wetzel

I’ve been traveling over a year now. My possessions are in storage; my clothes fit in my car; my memories in my head. I’ve left Europe and South America behind. Christmas is approaching and I want some comfort, some familiarity. The beautiful mountains and vistas of northern New Mexico have always touched my soul. So it is that I have arrived in this adobe enclave called Santa Fe, at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

I am renting a beautiful casita. It’s a combination of modern and traditional, with stained

concrete floors below and massive vigas spanning the ceiling above. The little house is perched at the base of the mountains at 7200 feet where the air is thin, and a warm stream of morning sun pours into the room.

Overnight it has rained. The high desert dust has settled, and the air literally sparkles.

Everything feels so fresh and vibrant.

But I am out of sync with the freshness of a new day after my dream. The dream wasn’t disturbing per se. It was just jumbled. There was a meaning in it, but to my early morning brain, the message isn’t clear.

I sit down to meditate and all of a sudden, it’s as if the dream comes alive. I am standing at the

intersection of three dirt trails. One comes down from the top of the hill, then continues

downward. The other goes off to the right. I stand at the crossroad with my backpack.

A procession of people from my past come down the hill. We meet, we talk, they go on their

way, down the trail. Everyone carries a package which they present to me. I take the parcel,

magically compact it down to nothing, as one can only do in a dream, and I place it in my


One person stands out. It is my former business partner.

He is a large man carrying too much weight in his middle. He appears to be jolly, but under that façade I know he is not. He is desperate and willing to do anything for the money and

recognition that is coming my way. But he’s out of his depth. I’ve created a truly novel web

business, based on supporting people through long term illness.

I create. He can only steal. And that is what he does. He takes all the intellectual property from

my business, registers it with the U.S. Patent Office as his own, then dares me to sue him. My

lawyers tell me it will cost in increments of half a million dollars, take three years of my life and

there are no guaranteed outcomes.

When I see him coming down the hill in my dreams, I remain calm. I have no emotion. I just

observe. He arrives, he converses without words, and heads down the hill without much ado.

With his departure, I re-arrange the items in my pack which just keep getting more and more

insignificant. Where it once was heavy and bulky, it’s now so light I hardly notice it. I toss the

pack over my shoulder and take off on a dirt path that climbs slightly upwards, around the hill

towards the rising sun which is spilling golden light on the waving grasses that surround me.

This should be a happy ending. The message from my dream is clear: The past is past; don’t

carry it with you, it will only weigh you down. Better days lie ahead.

But instead, my dream brings up a well of conflicting emotions I have yet to reconcile.

My business partner’s betrayal cost me my business and my home of 18 years. I had to find a

new family for the kitten I’d welcomed into my house when I was first diagnosed with

“incurable” cancer. She was my talisman that I would live. How could I desert her when she

provided me with such hope and solace?

But I also know that in reality, my kitten who is now a cat, has found a good home with two cat

friends and two humans who adore her, and she adores them. My beautiful home is no longer a burden of maintenance, taxes, and repairs. If I’m honest, I was in need of a change, and events conspired to present me with one.

My past life was comfortable. Predictable. Fun, but not necessarily fulfilling. I decorated my

home’s walls with art and the stunning African floors with rugs. I surrounded myself in beauty

and it resonated deeply with me.

In time, I sensed a hollowness to my materialism. Its beauty wasn’t diminished, but I had

grown. I needed a connection to something greater. To pay the medical, legal ,and business

bills, and to re-find my own footing, I sold my house and took off in search of an elusive


I flew, I sailed, and I drove. Four continents and thousands of miles passed. I got into the

rhythm of traveling homeless. I became a good photographer and writer and even won a few


One of the things I love about travel is that on the road I feel reconnected with a sense of

possibility. Part of it is the intensity of being present in unfamiliar environments. And being

present opens the door to greater connection with oneself.

I now recognize that true travel is about mindset over matter, perspective over place. You can’t collect it. You can’t visit it. You must experience it. Joseph Campbell once said that :

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re

really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life

experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being

and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

For me, the rapture of being alive is about being acutely present in the moment. And while the

novelty of travel fosters that presence, it’s available everywhere, every day.

I’ve come to see life as a road trip, full of twists and turns, ups and downs. There’s always a

new adventure around the corner. Perhaps it’s something seemingly mundane about how I

choose to react to someone. Perhaps it’s about choosing to understand rather than judge.

Whatever the situation, will I dare to be fully present, to live and experience that “rapture of

being alive?”

Road trips are never what we expect. Not if we’re open to the journey. Does the next bend in

the road reveal beauty or challenge or both? Or is it all in the eye of the beholder?

I am putting my hope in the latter because that I do control. And wherever my travels take me, I happily travel with myself. For that I am deeply grateful . I leave you with an Irish poem:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back. 

May the sun shine warm upon your face; 

the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, 

may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Pat Wetzel is a graduate of The Wharton School of Business, a pilot, a traveler, creator and host of the podcast Bump In The Road and author of the upcoming book Bump In The Road: Stories of Courage, Perseverance and Resilience.

Lise Deguire's multiple award-winning memoir, Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience from a Burn Survivor, is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Newtown Book Shop and The Commonplace Reader.

1 Comment

Jul 26, 2023

Lise - I love the way you have captured this: The past is past; don’t

carry it with you, it will only weigh you down. Better days lie ahead. And go for your dreams with all the reliance & gusto that you can muster & press on forward!

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